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The essay deals with Mary Gath’s decision not to accept the money awarded to her by Mr. Featherstone. The paper will describe the actual process that Mary acted upon, the steps she followed to ensure she made the right decision and the reasons she did so. It also entails the pre-theoretical decision that the writer would make, if in the situations and the reasons for making the decision were the same as Mary’s. Finally, a comparison of four approaches concerning the actions and results for Mary’s decisions are reviewed.
Mary Garth was offered to open the iron chest by old Mr. Peter Featherstone with a hidden key, and she was instructed to take the money and destroy the last will, which she vehemently refused; this is evident from the following quote. “No, sir,’ said Mary, in a firm voice, ‘I cannot do that”. Mary’s decision to neither take the possessions of old Featherstone nor heed to his last words without the immediate consent of the family members or a lawyer was not in her interest; she said persuasively: “Let me call someone else, sir”. Mary did not intend to disrupt her calm life with conflicts arising from Fred’s uncle’s unwavering desire to leave her with most of the property instead of giving it to Fred who would be left a poor man.
Under the set condition and secrecy that would resort after obliging to Mr. Peter Featherstone’s lucrative miracle, he would pre-theoretically take the offer because it was a dying man’s want. The decisions to take the money from Featherstone would be aimed at fulfilling his last wish. Old Featherstone was dying and he knew he had not much time to live: “I tell you, there’s no time to lose”. Mr. Featherstone did not need the property he had enjoyed all his life any longer and was sure this was the end, so he had already made a decision: he insisted that “I’ve got my faculties”.
When applying the act of utilitarianism, there should be observed the current situation that Mary had to deal with during her time alone with Mr. Featherstone. Mary had alternatives in the satisfaction by accepting the money given or if no change would affect her decision for not accepting the alternative action. The procedure Mary should adhere to under the act of utilitarianism having provided the alternatives would be as follows.
- Accept Mr. Featherstone money plus gold and burn the last will without much hesitation or
- Call Fred or Junior Featherstone to come immediately and fulfill Featherstone’s last wish.
By accepting the money and burning the last will as requested by old Featherstone, Mary could have inherited much of the wealth and also in the process could have benefited from Fred Vincy’s acquired property. She avoided taking the money as Mary did not intend to compromise the partnership she had with the rest of the family through suspicion.
Members involved in Mr. Peter Featherstone’s inheritance would be Mrs. Vincy, Fred Vincy, young Cranch, Mr. Jonah Featherstone, Mr. Solomon, and Mrs. Waule. The inept action by Mary would be carried out as a result of dissatisfaction and disharmony that would arise within the members of the family. In total satisfaction, the members (Vincy, Solomon and Featherstone family) would be dissatisfied with Mary accepting the money from old Featherstone as she was directly involved with all of them. Under the act of utilitarianism, Mary would be satisfied and yet discontented if she went ahead with her decision. In this situation, the number of people who would be discontented by Mary’s decision outweighs the satisfaction Mary would receive individually. According to the act of utilitarianism, the theory of consequentiality ascertains if the provided action is right; thus, Mary was not supposed to receive the money from old Featherstone.
If Mary chose the other alternative option of calling Fred to come and witness the unfolding drama, she would create trust and loyalty between them. Fred Vincy or Jonah Featherstone would be happy that Mary opted to call them during such crucial time, which they needed to resolve their financial woes and thus she wanted them to be there: “If you do, I must go and call your brother”. Most of the members would be satisfied by the decision made by Mary to involve them to one of their close relatives.
The accomplishment of calling one of the family members to get involved would be a satisfaction to Mary. Mr. Peter Featherstone would be dissatisfied by the decision that Mary had made, as he never liked his family: “The more fools they are”. The satisfaction of Fred, Jonah Featherstone, and other family members outweigh the discontent of old Featherstone. The best alternative that would satisfy most individuals would be calling the family members compared to accepting the money from old Featherstone. According to the act of utilitarianism, Mary should have made a choice of calling the family members.
According to the rule of utilitarianism, morals guide a person in making a decision that is acceptable by the public. For Mary’s decision to be correct it must have satisfied the preferences. Mary should not have let old Featherstone die without fulfilling his last hope. It can be shown according to the rule of utilitarianism.
First, the action should have been based on the moral and ethical rule's commands concerning the decision made by Mary to allow old Featherstone accomplish his last hope of giving out his property, but one can find no evidence of such action. Mary did not fulfill old Featherstone’s wish due to the fear of victimization from the side of the family members. The argument is that she did not want her action to lead to suspicion and conflict among Fred and other members, but Mary did put the interest of the family first by opting to let him rest in peace. The moral or ethical rule did not forbid her from taking the money and fulfilling the wish of the old man. The moral of the society also stipulates that family members should be aware of the happenings and all dealings should be accomplished if they consent to it. Under the rule of utilitarianism, Mary’s decision was not the best alternative.
Comparing steps and results, Mary’s decision to decline Mr. Featherstone’s offer is an act of utilitarianism as she knew the old man would be displeased with the family members’ decision, but she would not raise suspicion to his family. She judged happiness and suspicion when arriving at a decision. The role of the act of utilitarianism is to ensure the best alternative guarantees happiness to most of the individuals. The rule of utilitarianism applies to the standard act of utilitarianism by providing moral rules that are accepted in the community. Mary’s actual reasoning is well represented as she cared about the perception of the other members in comparison to what Mr. Featherstone has wished for.
In conclusion, Mill’s theories approve Mary’s strategy of not accepting Mr. Featherstone’s money and opting to make the decision of ignoring the requests.
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